Seminyak is the beating heart of Bali and home to the island’s best restaurants. Opened in 2008, Sarong is one of the neighbourhood’s originals and still a firm favourite. It was the first and most sophisticated restaurant by Scottish-Portuguese chef Will Meyrick, who now has four restaurants in Bali. Reminiscent of a plush boudoir, the establishment’s dimly lit chandeliers and sunken velvet chairs create a seductive atmosphere, matched by a meltingpot of Asian flavours and fine wines (not always a given in Bali). If you can’t get a booking here then try Meyrick’s delicious, but more casual, restaurant Mama San.
Those who prefer wood fires to the wok should head to KILN Petitenget. Previously the Petitenget Cafe, the revamped restaurant opened in May and has quickly become a crowd pleaser thanks to the smokin’ menu by Aussie chef Morgan McGlone (the man behind Belles Hot Chicken) and young Singaporean talent, Nick Scorpion. The restaurant plates up dishes like wood-fired pita with ‘banging’ hummus, roasted cauliflower, and chargrilled grass-fed beef with pimento and spring onion. Wash them down with a cocktail by Albie Barrat from Oxwell & Co in Singapore.
For a touch of the Amalfi Coast in Bali, make your way to Da Maria, a hip new Italian joint opened by Australian restaurateurs Maurice Terzini and Adrian Reed. Terzini, who has been travelling to Bali for decades, is the man behind Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta in Sydney, while Reed runs the ever-popular Motel Mexicola in Seminyak.
Pre-dinner drinks are almost as important as the main event. Visit the newly opened Ocean Champagne Bar at The Legian Hotel and order a bottle Cristal, Dom Perignon, or Billecart-Salmon to go with the sunset.
Once a sleepy resort village, Canggu is no longer just a magnet for surfers but attracts for all things art, design and culinary. Nothing says this more than The Slow, a 12-room luxury hotel and restaurant 200 metres from surf beach Batu Bolong. Oozing bohemian spirit, this tropical haven is the work of former Ksubi designers George Gorrow and Gareth Moody (with Gorrow’s wife, model Cisco Tschurtschenthaler). Chef Shannon Moran runs the kitchen for Eat & Drink, The Slow’s all-day restaurant. Taking inspiration from his travels around Europe, Asia and South America, the menu is a smorgasbord of small plates with big, bold flavours.
If you want to see and smell the sea, then head down the road to newly opened Ji Terrace by the Sea at the old-world Hotel Tugu Bali, perched on the water. The team of Japanese and Asian-trained chefs are led by Colin Buchan, who previously worked as a private chef for David and Victoria Beckham. Using fresh, local produce, the menu is an homage to Asian flavours from Japan, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
The promise of a great meal is a good enough reason to leave the beach behind and head for the jungles of Ubud. Temptation comes in the form of Locavore, touted as Bali’s best restaurant. Indonesian chef Ray Adriansyah works alongside Dutch chef Eelke Plasmeijer to plate up world-class cuisine with local flair. The menu celebrates the farmers, fishers and producers of Indonesia with 95 per cent of the kitchen’s ingredients sourced locally. Choose between five- and seven-course seasonal tasting menus in either Locavore or Herbivore style.
For a taste of the real Bali, skip the southern resorts and head east along the coast to Bali Asli. This restaurant and cooking school is run by Australian chef Penelope Williams, who honed her skills at Sydney institutions The Boathouse, Bathers Pavilion and Danks Street Depot. Asli means authentic in Bahasa and it is the focus of the food served and the cooking techniques used, like traditional mud-brick stoves. The restaurant is set in an open-air house nestled at the base of Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain.
If white sand, blue water and a day bed is for you then head to Sundays Beach Club in Uluwatu, Bali’s southern limestone cliff-fringed peninsula. James Viles, chef and owner of two-hatted Biota Dining & Rooms in Bowral, has recently come on board to redesign the menu. Known for his dedication to local produce, Viles has sourced fresh ingredients to create dishes such as Sundays’ whole local lobster, chilled soba noodle salad, sticky peanut and pork buns, and healthy breakfast options for early risers. Stay until dusk to enjoy the beachside bonfire.
The untamed west of Bali is the least populated (and least visited) region of the island, but that’s part of its charm. Most of the region is covered with national park, while along the coast black-sand beaches sparkle in the sun. The food scene here is still developing and luxurious resort Soori Bali is well ahead. Chef Diego Martinelli recently joined the team and is already leaving his mark, creating a special menu of farmyard chicken, Muscovy duck, quail and freshly caught fish, slow cooked with authentic Balinese spices to complement an evening of Balinese dancers. Heston Blumenthal claims to have had one of his most memorable meals here.